This is a slow-paced, character-driven anime centered around a game of skill, karuta. I think it is superbly well done on a number of levels. So why do I love this anime so much?
1. Characters. Characters are of course THE reason to watch an anime like this, and these do not disappoint. First and foremost, they ring very true to me. Chihaya is feather-brained but extremely devoted and genuine. Taichi is cool-headed and everything comes easy to him. "Tsukue-kun" devotes himself but always falls short of Taichi. And so on. They just work, on a level that's rare to find. There is a romance angle, but it's very understated, which makes it feel all the more realistic.
2. Pacing. As I said, the pacing is slow, but it never felt too slow or redundant to me (and I usual prefer faster-paced stories). The characters face setback after setback, yet there's clear progress, and it feels all the more realistic for it. Pulling off a slow pacing is particularly impressive.
3. Motivation. This is perhaps the most motivational story I've ever seen or read. The characters (Chihaya in particular) are driven to excel at their chosen sport. It's an extremely difficult game involving both mental and physical skill, and as I mentioned above, they face numerous setbacks. Karuta in this show could represent absolutely anything you choose to devote yourself to in life. Chihaya expresses the sentiment that if she became the best karuta player in Japan, that would make her the best in the world, and isn't that worth striving for--to be the best of something in the world? Whether or not you agree, her tenacity is admirable.
I also thought that the animation was quite good, and has a sense of style, especially when depicting the karuta matches. I highly recommend this for anyone looking for a character-driven anime. I'm very excited for the next season!